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Voluntary moratorium on bird flu studies at UW-Madison closer to ending


MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Bird flu researchers at UW-Madison say they’re getting closer to ending a voluntary moratorium on their studies.

That’s after the federal government published new funding guidelines for future research. UW virologist Yoshihiro Kawaoka has been waiting for the new guidelines, so his team could get back to work on creating a strain of the H5N1 virus that’s being tested on lab birds.

A major scare developed overseas a decade ago. Since then, about 600 people were infected by a virus that was previously was limited to birds. About 60 percent of those people died.

Studies at both Madison and the Netherlands involved the virus that was deadly when introduced to ferrets.

Once the news of that virus got out, a controversy arose among scientists which led to the new federal guidelines for paying for such research.

Kawaoka stopped his work voluntarily a year ago to give officials time to develop the new guidelines, which call for funding the research only if there’s a reasonable chance it will generate new data that can be openly shared.

The UW’s studies are funded by a five-year federal grant. Officials say the work will not resume immediately.